Storytelling, business fluency, employee comms among top lessons of CommsWeek 2022
CommsWeek Co-Chairs Diane Schwartz and Tiffany Guarnaccia share their top gleanings from the week.
Ragan’s Communications Week 2022, held Nov. 1-7, was overflowing with takeaways to inform the communicator’s 2023 playbook. Peer-to-peer conversations were abundant during this important industry week, which included the Future of Communications Conference in NYC.
CommsWeek Co-Chairs Diane Schwartz, CEO of Ragan, and Tiffany Guarnaccia, CEO of Kite Hill PR and founder of CommsWeek, share their top gleanings from the week:
Guarnaccia: Congratulations to Ragan on a fantastic Communications Week. One of the big takeaways from me was the power of storytelling. Now more than ever, the best communicators are storytellers. Some of the sessions touched on how to make sure your story is worth telling internally and externally. The world’s best communicators know that employees are our number-one brand advocates. We need to engage them.
Schwartz: So true. And it should go without saying, but I’m saying it: transparency with employees is critical. We heard from so many speakers that employees can handle bad news better than uncertainty. Communicate early and often, and when it comes to storytelling – don’t be boring! A popular tweet during Communications Week was that storytelling is data with a soul. I love that. Tiffany, what else struck you during the Future of Comms Conference?
Guarnaccia: Measurement is an evergreen topic that emerged again at Communications Week 2022. We are constantly evaluating new strategies and emerging communications channels and the new measurement techniques. When thinking about the value of PR, many communicators are rethinking what that means. Some agency leaders, like the president of MikeWorldWide, Bret Werner, pointed out that we need to rethink top tier. Traditionally, when you think of top tier, you think of outlets like the WSJ, CNN or NY Times. Today, a placement on a key blog or a mention on TikTok could attract the right audiences and drive results, especially for consumer brands.
Schwartz: Back to internal communications for a second, I find this stat from one of our sponsors Staffbase rather illuminating: 75% of internal communicators spend the majority of their time “getting stuff out” – this underscores how communicators must move from order taker to strategist. They need to Meet the Moment – the theme of this year’s CommsWeek – and make sure they’re spending more time on strategy beyond their own department.
Guarnaccia: So true, Diane. They need to be more fluent in the business. This is an area Ragan promotes heavily to its audience.
Schwartz: Yes, business fluency is one of the most important competencies of comms leaders – understanding how your company operates, what drives the top and bottom lines. You can take small steps like spending time with your CFO and asking questions that might take you out of your comfort zone but will put you on the right footing as a business partner.
Guarnaccia:: CommsTech was another hot topic and it will grow in importance. I touched on this in my session. We addressed the new comms tech stack and the importance of embracing agility. We need to be agile in theory and in practice. Successful comms programs require a high degree of agility and ability to pivot quickly based on the news cycle or in response to a crisis. At Kite Hill PR we leverage a workflow that models agile development. It was interesting to see that some attendees are taking a similar approach and adding project management software platforms to their own comms tech stack.
Schwartz: I enjoyed moderating a session with Chief Communications Officers from Dow Jones (Jennifer Thurman), US Chamber of Commerce (Michelle Russo) and Columbia Business School (Amy Jaick). Amy pointed out something I think all communicators should keep in mind, which is that some of the best comms strategies are invisible. The absence of crisis and chaos, the story that didn’t run, the CEO that didn’t have to take the hot seat — these are to the credit of savvy communicators.
Guarnaccia: I completely agree with that statement. Investing in a continual human-powered effort to build trust and maintain and enhance a corporate reputation is critical to a business’s long-term success.
Schwartz: During Communications Week, there were a lot of ideas shared and curiosity around the role of Comms in ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance) efforts. I thought Catherine Blades Hernandez of SAIC said it best during the fireside chat when she said ‘ESG is a way to show your trust is earned.’”
Guarnaccia: No better role in an organization than Communications to lead the way.
Schwartz: That’s a great way to cap off this conversation, Tiffany!
Mark your calendars for Communications Week 2023 the week of Nov. 6-10. Go to www.commsweek.com for early updates.